Along with Pensacola to the south, Gulf Breeze is a city located on the Fairpoint Peninsula in west Florida’s Santa Rosa County.
At the time of the last census, Gulf Breeze had approximately 6,500 residents. The city’s location gives visitors access to not only the Gulf of Mexico but to Escambia and Pensacola Bays as well, making it a hot spot for anglers, boaters, and all-around outdoor enthusiasts.
Gulf Breeze’s proximity to neighboring Alabama makes day trips to Mobile a popular activity too, and the area is home to one of the South’s most popular national parks.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Gulf Breeze, Florida.
1. Gulf Breeze Zoo
Featuring nearly 1,000 animals spread over 50 scenic acres, the Gulf Breeze Zoo is a popular local attraction that’s easy to get to and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to visit.
The zoo’s animal residents come from nearly every corner of the globe, and though getting up close and personal with the larger and more dangerous ones isn’t an option, children have the opportunity to interact with more cuddly species like goats, sheep, and even giraffes.
They only close a few times a year for major holidays, and the Safari Line train tour is one of the zoo’s most popular activities.
2. Fort Pickens National Park
Fort Pickens National Park is one of the Gulf Islands National Seashore’s most popular attractions and is open daily from 7 AM until 10 PM.
Fort Pickens is a favorite destination for campers; due to its natural beauty and abundant activity options like fishing, kayaking, and biking, it can draw crowds during peak times.
For much of the year, it’s a good idea to reserve your camping spot before arriving, but if you’ll be staying from November through February, campsites are handed-out on a first-come, first-served basis.
The park includes a camper’s convenience store, and guided, staff-led tours are offered to both Fort Pickens and Fort Barrancas.
3. Gulf Breeze Guide Service
Anglers from all over the country flock to Florida to fish in its warm coastal waters. For those unfamiliar with the territory, hiring a local guide increases the likelihood of making a memorable catch.
Though Gulf Breeze Guide Service specializes in fly fishing excursions, they also offer light tackle options; redfish, sea trout, bonefish, and pompano are among the favorite quarries.
Gulf Breeze’s guides have decades of experience, and tour options include the Gulf of Mexico as well as the area’s abundant rivers and bays that are home to a huge variety of gamefish. Check out their website for a complete list of options.
4. Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier
The Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier reaches nearly 1,500 feet out into the Gulf of Mexico, making it the largest of its kind on the state’s western coast.
Surf fishers flock to the pier year-round to tangle with the Gulf’s abundant game fish, like bluefish, mackerel, cobia, and flounder.
For visitors who don’t have their own fishing gear, it’s possible to rent rods and buy bait, and the pier is open to the general public too.
It’s common to see fish, turtles, and other marine animals just by looking over the edge. Due to the pier’s westward orientation, it’s one of the best places to take in an iconic Florida sunset.
5. Brackenridge Nature Trail
Though Florida’s Gulf Coast has its fair share of swanky resorts and pricy restaurants, it’s generally more well-known for its undisturbed beaches and rural charm more than its east coast counterparts.
Brackenridge Nature Trail is located inside the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Gulf Breeze and is open daily from 8 AM to sunset.
The trail’s most visited attraction is the Naval Live Oaks Preserve, which was created nearly 200 years ago to safeguard oak trees that were imperative to constructing naval vessels during the time.
Thankfully, boat-building no longer relies on the rare wood, but the nearly eight-mile-long trail is still a big attraction for exercisers, outdoor lovers, and history buffs.
6. Gulf Breeze Flea Market
Flea markets are often overlooked attractions that offer visitors an opportunity to meet locals. They have lots of trinkets and treasures that make great gifts and keepsakes.
The Gulf Breeze Flea Market is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 AM to 5 PM, rain or shine.
The market is located on Gulf Breeze Parkway and is spread over more than 40 acres. Like most flea markets, having ample time and patience is key to getting the most out of your experience.
The market’s vendors offer both new and used items ranging from tools and books to jewelry and vintage clothing.
7. Naval Aviation Museum
The Naval Aviation Museum is located on the Pensacola Naval Air Station and is open to the public every day.
Visitors will need to have a valid, government-issued ID to get onto the base, but admission is totally free. The staff offer regularly scheduled guided tours that give guests unique insights into naval aviation history that they might miss out on if they choose to show themselves around.
The museum’s flight simulators are perennial favorites, and the items on display include restored aircraft, weapons, photographs, and historical accounts from pilots and aircrews who’ve served the country in times of peace and war.
8. Gulf Islands National Seashore
Gulf Islands National Seashore stretches from Florida to Mississippi and is one of the Gulf Coast’s premier natural attractions.
Protected areas include both mainland and barrier island portions and offer guests a variety of activity options, including outdoor recreation as well as cultural and historic sites.
The national seashore’s beaches are most well-known for their undeveloped, sugary white sand and relatively warm, shallow waters that stretch to the horizon.
Camping, fishing, boating, and biking are popular activities, as are guided tours of the area’s coastal forts, wildlife sanctuaries, and numerous islands which are only accessible by boat.
9. Seville Quarter
Florida’s Gulf Coast isn’t known for its nightlife in the way that Miami and Daytona Beach are, but for those who aren’t ready to call it a day just because the sun is setting, Seville Quarter is just the place to spend an evening.
The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch and includes a variety of rooms such as an oyster bar, dance hall, and live entertainment venue.
Seville Quarter is known for its lively and festive atmosphere and abundant food options. They host a variety of special events ranging from daily food and drink specials to seasonal festivals.
10. Palafox Street
For art, entertainment, and shopping, there’s no destination in Pensacola like Palafox Street.
Palafox Street has repeatedly been ranked among the country’s most trendy districts and is home to historic theaters, great restaurants and bars, and an overall feel that reminds many visitors of what they’ve experienced in New Orleans and Memphis.
Of course, Palafox Street is smaller and less crowded than the cities mentioned above, which makes it perfect for an evening out even for those traveling with kids.
Palafox Street is home to some of the city’s best restaurants too; many of them offer daily food and drink deals.
11. Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park has been educating and engaging visitors to the Gulf Coast for more than six decades, and many families who visit the area every year make it a point not to miss the aquarium.
The aquarium is located on Okaloosa Island and is considered one of the best attractions of its kind in the country.
Admission is relatively inexpensive, and there are discounts for servicemen and women, kids, and seniors. In addition to their permanent exhibits, they offer a variety of special activities that give guests unique opportunities to get a hands-on experience with many of the park’s animal residents.
12. Props Craft Brewery
Featuring a restaurant and taproom in Fort Walton Beach, Props Craft Brewery is a veteran-owned and operated business that’s been open for less than a decade but has garnered a loyal following of local beer lovers.
Props offers a variety of made-on-site beers that range from hoppy IPAs to dark porters. For those who aren’t sure which type of beer they prefer, it’s possible to order a flight which allows you to sample several options.
Props has both indoor and outdoor seating and offers plenty of food options, from chicken tenders and French fries to tacos and salads.
13. The Village of Baytowne Wharf
The Village of Baytowne Wharf is situated on the scenic shores of Choctawhatchee Bay. It is a favorite attraction for those interested in leisurely strolls, abundant eateries, and a variety of shopping options.
The wharf is also known as a busy venue for annual festivals, fairs, and live entertainment, most of which are scheduled in the fall, winter, and spring months when the Florida weather is sunny and mild.
The area features abundant public parking, and most visitors choose to show themselves around on-foot. Many end-up staying longer than they originally intended. Check-out their website for a complete schedule of public events.
14. Destin History & Fishing Museum
Florida’s Gulf Coast is home to some of the best sport fishing in the world, and anglers flock year-round to tangle with a variety of fish.
Historically, the area has been home to one of the state’s largest commercial fishing fleets as well. For those visiting the area, there’s no better place to get a unique insight into both than the Destin History & Fishing Museum.
The museum’s main attraction is the display of stuffed, local fish that spans nearly 100 feet. The exhibits include equipment, photographs, and accounts of fisherman dating back more than 100 years.
15. Buccaneer Pirate Cruise
Though visitors to Gulf Breeze will have to make a day-trip to get to Destin, the small Gulf Coast town offers a variety of activity options. For those traveling with children, Buccaneer Pirate Cruises are among the most popular.
Cruises take place aboard a 100-foot vessel, and activities include singing, hidden treasure hunts, and water cannon battles.
Cruises generally last a few hours. There are ample seating areas from which parents can keep an eye on the action without getting too close.
It’s common to see a variety of wildlife as well; for little ones, it’s usually one of the most memorable experiences of their trip.